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Clin Psychol Rev. 2003 Dec;23(7):959-97.

For better or for worse? The effects of alcohol use on marital functioning.

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Department of Psychiatry, Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, 2811 O'Hara Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA.


Two competing hypotheses propose opposite effects for the relation between alcohol use and marital functioning. One hypothesis conceptualizes alcohol use as maladaptive and proposes that it serves as a chronic stressor that causes marital dysfunction and subsequent dissolution. An opposing hypothesis proposes that alcohol use is adaptive and serves to temporarily relieve stressors that cause marital dysfunction, stabilizing the marital relationship, and perhaps preventing dissolution. Sixty studies were reviewed that tested the relation between alcohol use and one of three marital functioning domains (satisfaction, interaction, and violence). Results provide overwhelming support for the notion that alcohol use is maladaptive, and that it is associated with dissatisfaction, negative marital interaction patterns, and higher levels of marital violence. A small subset of studies found that light drinking patterns are associated with adaptive marital functioning; however, more research is necessary to replicate these effects and identify specific conditions under which they occur.

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